Winter Wardrobe Reclamation

February 8, 2011

A cold and rainy winter morning blossomed like a meadow of wild color as we dipped and stirred our clothes into botanical brews.  Dr. Sara Gottfried hosted a fabulous wardrobe reclamation at her Oakland home.  The vats of steaming plant matter wafted like tea, and the hot water warmed our chilly fingers and hands.

The coffeeberry yielded a magical greenish yellow.  The branches and leaves came from a local ranch where a big pruning had just taken place.

We also made use of the Valley Oak’s renewable gifts.. the galls create an incredibly steely gray color.  At this time of year they can still be found dangling from the barren branches.  Known as ‘an apartment building’ for insect life, the galls host a plethora of tiny species in the larval stages during the autumn.

Toyon branches were collected from another pruning job.  Leaving the berries for bird food is normally best… but if they are trimmed from the tree for the reasons of a landowner, they can be used in a dye pot to add a little added orange hue to the color.

A lucky find of coreopsis was at the local farmer’s market, and was purchased just before the workshop began.  The flowers create a beautiful and very strong orange dye almost instantaneously.

Dr. Sara Gottfried dyes a pole-wrapped garment

Dr. Gottfried’s dye work is a small step in support of  her overall efforts to wear and eat organic this year.  Her organic experiment, as it is known, began January 1st of 2011.  I’ve loved reading her blog: http://drgottfried.blogspot.com/.  It is a journal that weaves together her life as a wearer and eater of organic, as well as a doctor, a hormone expert, a mother, and an astute barometer for inspiring and eye opening books.

Her evolving journey rings so true and resonant to experiences I’ve had in the Fibershed project.  I also completely adore her entries on female hormones, burnout, and thyroid malfunction and its causes…. all very pertinent for those of us who tend to burn the candle at both ends.  The entry that grabbed me recently was her description of receiving a garment in the depths of the winter temperatures.  The organic experiment took time to evolve, and winter was already here.  After a week or more of coldness…

All changed yesterday when my organic, fair-trade sweater showed up in the mail. The world brightened. Slipped it on at the UPS store. Fit gloriously and within seconds.” –Dr. Gottfried

Left: Rebecca Burgess wears Sally Fox cotton pants, fennel vest, toyon neck cowl, and an oak gall shirt. Right: Sara Gottfried wears a fully organic outfit, jacket was locally designed and sewn

Self-imposed limitation creates this kind of gratitude and joy.  I know this feeling so well.  It is a pleasure and a gift to be able to share this feeling with Sara.  I feel a sense of respect and total admiration for her efforts and journey.  It’s good work, not always easy but incredibly worthwhile.

This experiment means supporting the movement away from that which has the potential to disrupt our most sacred balance, and personal energy resources.  To remove the synthetic compounds from our diet and clothing is a process of giving ourselves those things we are intrinsically designed for–natural fibers, and clean food.  Good for the inside, good for the outside.

Thank you Sara for inspiring, illuminating, and teaching through what you know, and most importantly, what you do.

Thank you Madeleine Tilin for you amazing photography!

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5 Responses to “Winter Wardrobe Reclamation”

  1. Marnie Jackson Says:

    Where is the best local place to buy organic clothing in Marin???

    • ecologicalartist Says:

      Organic clothing…in Marin, well, I’m thinking there is that one store in Larkspur on Magnolia near the rustic bakery… I’m forgetting the name, she’s all organic.

  2. lancek1 Says:

    The photography really is lovely an once again , you are an inspiration . Thanks for another great post. That last photo is just perfect.

  3. Michelle Says:

    I have been trying to find an answer to a my question. I’m hoping you can help. I love this site by the way. It is very inspiring. I love coreopsis and have them throughout my yard (1 acre). Which causes me to have 2 questions.
    The first is, I have collected hundreds of 3 different kinds of oak galls after recent storms here. (landscape trees at work). I chopped up about 2 cups and put them in a ceramic crock pot on low for 8 hours and soaked 18 hours. I want to use the dye to either completely dye some stained denim jeans or paint over the stains with the dye. Do I need a mordant? Should I just add rust to it and soak the jeans? And the 2nd questions is, do the coreopsis petals need to be fresh or can I use what I deadhead after they bloom? I brain tan and am interested in using natural dyes on the buckskin and rawhide.


  4. Oak gall dye is dark only with the addition or iron water.. I would add iron water and heat it up to help your jeans take to the color. You can dry coreopsis and use it year round. Deadheading is good!


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